Clare Linane has spoken about the extraordinary reception to her open letter after news about Cardinal George Pell's conviction for child sexual abuse become public last week.
In a statement, she defended everyone's right for “healthy, robust, educated debate”. But she heavily criticised some commentators - such as Andrew Bolt, to whom her letter was addressed - for “reckless and ill-informed” views.
Ms Linane also highlighted the effect that the coverage will have on abuse survivors.
“So many survivors of childhood sexual abuse would have found it hard to get out of bed this week,” she wrote.
“So many would have found it hard not to revert to old patterns of self-medicating to drown out their own memories. Such prominent coverage triggers intense and challenging emotions for survivors and their families.”
Her husband Peter Blenkiron was abused at St Patrick’s College.
Here, we publish her statement in full:
I do not deny anyone their right to their own opinion on this issue.
I do not deny anyone the right to healthy, robust, educated debate about the Australian legal system.
I do, however, take exception to Andrew Bolt publishing his reckless and ill-informed view as if it were based on all of the facts.
The sad reality here is that once the media frenzy about Pell’s guilt or innocence passes – and it will – thousands of survivors and their friends and families will continue to live – and die - with the day to day fall-out of institutional and non-institutional childhood sexual abuse.
I responded to Bolt on behalf of those people.
So many survivors of childhood sexual abuse would have found it hard to get out of bed this week.
So many would have found it hard not to revert to old patterns of self-medicating to drown out their own memories.
Such prominent coverage triggers intense and challenging emotions for survivors and their families.
During the decade that my husband was suicidal, trying to process the pain of his abuse, it was like living life next to someone who was walking through a quagmire of thick, rotten mud.
I was at the edge of the quagmire, desperately trying to help him keep his head up so he did not drown.
At the same time, I was trying not to fall into the mud myself; trying to earn a living; and trying to keep our children safe and happy.
We are no longer in this situation – with years of counselling Pete finally feels his two feet are on solid land – but all around Australia and indeed the world, this is the reality right now for survivors and their families.
When Andrew Bolt and other commentators question the outcome of a trial – despite not even being privy to all of the evidence that was presented to the jury – they throw in the face of survivors that same denial from others they have had to deal with their entire life.
“But it was physically impossible.”
“But surely you would have told someone.”
“But he was a wonderful man.”
“But I asked you and you denied it.”
“You just want to get back at the Church/destroy our family.”
“But you were never alone with him.”
Right now is an incredibly difficult time for survivors.
Articles like Andrew Bolt’s will just be reminding them of why they can’t ask for help; everyone is going to doubt them anyway.
It is just one more weight on their shoulders as they try not to drown in that mud.
Commentators such as Bolt need to show some compassion for the thousands of survivors trying to get through each day.
If you are going to express a view, do it in a way that is balanced and considered, not reckless and self-serving.
Bolt seems to enjoy casting himself as the lone truth teller, bravely taking on the angry, primitive, irrational mob that is the rest of Australia, as we chase after Pell to burn him at the stake.
But he underestimates our intelligence, and he fails to realise that most of us are far more interested in keeping survivors alive than wasting our energy persecuting any one person.
I am pleased my response has been so widely read because it means it will have been read by many survivors and their families.
I want those people to walk a little lighter, and stand a little taller, knowing that we are here beside them. We believe them. We have our arms out-stretched and are willing to help them as they climb out of the quagmire. We will not let them go.
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